WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4/5
There are both pluses and minuses with short stories. They lack the depth and detail of a full-length novel, but are short and undemanding; you need not start from the first page of the book, and you need not wind-up at the last page. Any story can be picked up at random and read. People with shorter concentration times find short stories appealing because the problem of extended reading times is not there.
Most celebrated authors have tried their hands at penning down short-stories; Paulo Coelho, Jhumpa Lahiri, Salman Rushdie, Ruskin Bond, R.K. Narayan, etc.
Stories of Hope is one such collection of short-stories by Kirthi Jayakumar, a lawyer by profession. The stories in this book seek to make us realise that during events of great despair if we cling on to hope, we can face any insurmountable trouble. The stories tell us that even during deep jeopardies, there exists a ray of hope, either within us or around us.
The short stories in Stories of Hope are beautifully written and vary in terms of the characters, the setting, the backdrop, and the existence or absence of hope. The book tells us the story of young girls – a girl who loses her family in a terror attack, a girl who is married off to an old man at the age of thirteen, a girl living in abject poverty, an orphan girl dreaming of becoming a singer; stories of young boys – the hungry boy in Ghana who walks hundreds of miles in search of food, the arrogant French boy who becomes friends with an old watch-maker, the boy forced to become a Fedayeen, the young Kashmiri boy held captive by terrorists; stories of mothers – the mother who loses her just born, the mother who is turned out by her grown-up son and now living in an old age home.
All the stories are heart touching and deeply emotional. Do not be surprised if you shed a tear or two for the characters in the book. Each of them is troubled by a different burden, but what they all have in common is hope; the Arab refugee lives in hope of coming back to his motherland, the people of Egypt live with the hope of democracy, the lonely old woman lives with the hope that her son will return safely from the war.
The narration style is steady and similar across all the stories – a bit confusing initially, a tormented character living with hope, and a great, unsuspecting climax. The language, though simple overall, has complex vocabulary sprinkled in, which I think is better avoided. Statements like “The canzones of her solipsistic musical skills had a life of their own, as they meandered along with her through her daily chores”, and “Her steps fringed the music with magic, as it swung upwards, meandering into a bubbling soliloquy, building up to a crescendo”, do more to confuse and frighten a reader, than enhance his interest in the story.
Finally, if you feel that your troubles are big and unbearable, read Kirthi’s Stories of Hope. It will certainly ease out your worries and lighten your heart; a true chicken soup for the soul.